Imagine gaining the ability to manage cravings, navigate emotional hurdles, and make choices that support your long-term well-being. Yoga, a physical, mental, and spiritual practice with roots dating back over 2,000 years, offers a unique path to achieving this goal. With its potential to cultivate emotional balance, self-awareness, and self-regulation, yoga complements traditional recovery tools. Now, let’s uncover how yoga can empower your journey towards a life of sobriety.

The Connection Between Yoga and Sobriety

Yoga and sobriety may seem like they don’t have much to do with each other at first, but the physical, breathing, and cognitive exercises yogis participate in have the potential to support people in their recovery journey and the ongoing search to maintain sobriety.

As a complementary method, yoga helps achieve and maintain sobriety by improving mindfulness and self-awareness. Developing these two traits allows individuals in recovery to observe and manage their thoughts and emotions more effectively, reducing impulsivity and, in turn, contributing to a lower risk of relapse.

There’s also scientific evidence to back up yoga’s benefits for people in recovery. This study suggests that practicing yoga positively impacts key brain areas like the hippocampus, amygdala, cingulate cortex, brain networks, and prefrontal cortex.

Notably, the prefrontal cortex plays an essential role in our ability to self-regulate our behavior. It helps us control impulsive urges, delay instant gratification, predict the consequences of our actions, set long-term goals, and perform other functions related to planning, focusing, and receiving information.

All of these skills are extremely important to manage the psychological effects of cravings and recovery in general.

Spirituality and the 12 Steps

Yoga has a spiritual component, and some consider many of its principles similar to Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12-step program.

The 12-step program emphasizes surrendering to a higher power (ishvara pranidhana), being honest (Satya), understanding ourselves (svadhyaya), and breaking the habits that negatively affect us (samskaras).

These similarities make it easier for individuals to integrate yoga into their recovery. Yoga improves physical and cognitive wellness and provides a spiritual framework that meshes very well with and reinforces some of the core principles of the 12 Steps, one of the world’s most popular recovery and sobriety programs.

Yoga Practices That Support Addiction Recovery

Yoga is an effective complementary therapy for addiction support. This study shows that it can help reduce substance use and cravings in the short term, especially in people who use nicotine.

But what specific practices benefit people in recovery? Here’s a list of some of the most common and effective yoga practices that can help support your sobriety journey.


Asana are the physical postures practiced in yoga sessions. These postures improve strength, flexibility, and balance while promoting physical-mental well-being and preparing your body for meditation and other spiritual practices.

According to tradition, there may be millions of possible yoga poses, but there are approximately 200 in modern yoga. Each pose has a specific goal, and yoga instructors create routines that consist of performing multiple poses in a row, so many poses can help someone in addiction recovery.

A Yoga Journal article proposes the following routine as support for addiction recovery:

  1. Vajrasana (Sitting Mountain)
  2. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
  3. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
  4. Baddha Konasana (Butterfly)
  5. Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)
  6. Apanasana (Little Boat Hugging Knees)
  7. Jathara Parivartanasana (Knee-Hug Spinal Twist)
  8. Savasana (Corpse Pose)


Pranayama involves various breath control techniques designed to regulate breathing, enhance body energy flow, and prepare the mind for meditation.

Like poses, there are many breathing techniques, each with goals and benefits. Consider trying these techniques:

  • Ujjayi breathing (ocean breath) involves constricting the back of the throat while breathing in and out through the nose. This technique produces a soft hissing sound and helps enhance concentration and maintain body heat during yoga practices.
  • Anuloma viloma (alternate nostril breathing). This technique involves inhaling through one nostril while closing the other with a finger, then exhaling through the opposite nostril and repeating the cycle. It’s used for balancing the left and right hemispheres of the brain, calming the mind, and promoting mental clarity.
  • Brahmari (bee breath) involves making a humming sound while exhaling. This technique releases stress and calms the mind, and it is often used to soothe nerves and reduce anxiety or agitation.

In general, pranayama is vital for developing concentration, improving lung capacity, and learning to be more aware of the moment, which can be therapeutic for someone in recovery.

Combined with more traditional therapies, these breathing exercises can help manage triggers, reduce stress, and stay emotionally stable.


Dhyana is meditation. It involves uninterrupted focus, leading to a deep stillness and self-awareness. Like the other principles (“limbs”) of yoga, practicing dhyana and becoming able to hold your focus while standing still takes time.

But the good news is that there is no rush, and meditating helps you develop patience and self-awareness that goes a long way during recovery. Consider keeping these tips in mind if you decide to practice mediation:

  • Use a mantra or affirmation. Affirmations are short sentences that affirm our ability to do something, such as “I trust myself.” Come back to this affirmation periodically during the session.
  • Choose a visual focal point. It can be anything around you, furniture or a houseplant.
  • Think about what you’re passionate about. Think about what enriches your life and what you love doing.
  • Take it slow. It takes time to become able to hold your focus. Take your time, and don’t fret about not experiencing dhyana. It will come eventually.

Integrating Yoga in Your Recovery Journey

Regularly practicing yoga during recovery can help build mindfulness, self-awareness, and self-acceptance, all positive traits that help us maintain our sobriety and understand the challenges of staying sober.

But getting started with yoga as addiction recovery support can be surprisingly challenging if you’ve never practiced it before. If you’re considering it, try to follow these steps to ease into it:

  • Choose the appropriate class. Select yoga classes that focus on the mind-body connection. The class doesn’t have to be necessarily designed for people in addiction recovery. Still, some recovery centers provide yoga classes for those overcoming addiction, which can be very helpful in the initial stages.
  • Begin gradually. Start with simple yoga poses and progressively increase the complexity and intensity as your body adapts.
  • Get into a routine. Practice yoga regularly to build consistency, which is crucial for experiencing its benefits.
  • Try to be patient. Recognize that yoga is a gradual process and stay committed to continuous practice.
  • Incorporate mindfulness. Incorporate mindfulness into your yoga practice to enhance focus and self-awareness.
  • Accept yourself and your current progress. Be patient with your progress and adapt the practice to your current physical and emotional condition.

Remember that you will likely not get everything right from the start. For example, you may want to switch classes after a few weeks. That’s normal, and it’ll be a learning experience that will guide your journey and help you discover more about yourself.

Recovery, Positive Affirmations, and Yoga

As mentioned above, positive affirmations are short, powerful statements to enhance mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Yogis often recite these affirmations out loud or in their minds during yoga sessions to shift negative thoughts, reinforce a positive self-image, and promote a deeper connection with themselves.

There are many positive affirmations, and you can create your own. They can involve any topic related to you and your recovery journey.

Here are ten positive affirmations you may use during your yoga sessions or your days in general:

  1. “I am in control of my choices and my life.”
  2. “Every breath I take is a new opportunity.”
  3. “I release the past and live fully in the present.”
  4. “I am worthy of a healthy, sober life.”
  5. “With every pose, I build strength and resilience.”
  6. “I am patient and compassionate with myself.”
  7. “I am on a path of healing and recovery.”
  8. “I embrace peace and serenity within me.”
  9. “My body is a temple, and I treat it respectfully.”
  10. “I am surrounded by love and support on my journey.”

Over time, these affirmations can help reinforce a positive mindset, increase self-awareness, and support your emotional and spiritual growth during recovery.

Yoga Helps You Build Emotional Resilience During Recovery

For people in addiction recovery, yoga offers a complement to traditional addiction recovery methods by fostering a holistic approach to physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Through asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation, those in recovery can gain tools to improve their stress management, emotional regulation, and impulse control, all of which are crucial skills to maintain your sobriety goals over time.

Unroll your mat and allow yoga to be your partner on the path to lasting sobriety.